Image: Catherine Woods
Catherine Woods, seen in 2001, told her family she was working in off-Broadway shows.
updated 11/30/2005 4:38:35 PM ET 2005-11-30T21:38:35

Catherine Woods came to the big city from Ohio with dreams of making it big on Broadway. Instead, she wound up working as a topless dancer under the stage name “Ava” — a secret that came out only after she was stabbed to death in her apartment last weekend.

The slaying of the 21-year-old aspiring dancer on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the exposure of her secret life came as a double shock to family and friends.

“She was apparently a very sweet girl,” said Anthony Regina, day manager at the club Privilege, where Woods was a dancer. “She really was trying to get into show business. She was classically trained. It’s sad when this happens to anyone, but she was really trying to make it.”

Her father, John R. Woods, director of the Ohio State University marching band, came to New York to claim his daughter’s body.

By Wednesday, police had yet to make an arrest in the grisly slaying. Woods’ ex-boyfriend was questioned for two days but not charged. The couple were living together despite their romantic split, police said.

The ex-boyfriend, an aspiring rapper who worked as a doorman in a nearby building, had followed Woods to New York from Columbus, Ohio.

Hid strip club jobs from family
In a phone call last week to her family, Woods claimed she had landed a role in an off-Broadway show, “Privilege,” according to published reports. In reality, she had worked between April and July as a dancer at strip club of the same name, Regina said.

She then moved on to Flash Dancers on Broadway, another topless club. It was as close as Woods would make it to the Great White Way.

It was a long way from the Dance Reach with Mary Rose studio in Powell, Ohio, where Woods began taking classes at age 3. Woods studied ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance, and spent most days dancing there through high school, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Friends and family told the Dispatch how desperately she wanted to make it in New York City. Many were convinced she would.

The dark-haired beauty graduated from high school in 2002 and moved to New York over the protests of family members who hoped she would attend college.

But breaking into show business proved tough, and friends said Woods took jobs waitressing and teaching dance classes. She continued to take classes of her own while auditioning for shows.

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Video: Double life


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